Hot desking versus Fixed

Hot deskingI started wondering which would be better, hot desking or fixed, so I thought I’d try to come up with a list of pros and cons. However I then realised that there are two different ways of hotdesking.

You can either issue hotdesking staff with a laptop on which they keep their working environment with them. This is especially suitable for workers who work from home alot, who travel to attend conferences or who like to work in unusual places (see the picture above 🙂 ). 

Alternatively you get all hotdesking staff to use shared PCs when they come in and keep their files etc on a networked drive. So no matter what PC you log in from, you can still access your “My documents” folder as if it were on the local machine.

I’ve used italics for things that relate to management rather than the staff member, but when it boils down to it, I suspect that this is a matter of personal preference.

Fixed Desk space


  • Storage for books and papers (although this may be limited in the new building)
  • Permanent computer at your disposal with appropriate software loaded
  • Better for ensuring environment can be adapted to suit special need, such as RSI
  • People can find you easily
  • You have a fixed phone number


  • If you travel regularly, you don’t have all your eletronic work environment available
  • People can find you easily

Hot desking using shared desktop computers


  • Building managers get more efficient usage of space
  • People may have trouble finding you which is great if you want to get work done


  • If all the hotdesks are taken up when you come in, you can’t work
  • If you use specialist software, such as Nvivo or SPSS, this needs to be installed on all hotdesk machines.
  • All hotdesk machines need to be maintained to the same spec by IT as no one user is in control of them.
  • No fixed phone number
  • People may have trouble locating you
  • No permanent storage

Hotdesking with a laptop


  • Building managers get more efficient usage of space
  • You always have your working environment with you, when you travel, at home, at the OU
  • You are not dependent on the hotdesks – if they’re all full when you come in, you could always go to the digilab or to a spare desk somewhere
  • People may have trouble finding you (see above)


  • Laptops of high enough spec are generally more expensive than desktops
  • Laptops are more sensitive to damage
  • Laptops can be lost so backups and archiving are extremely important
  • In addition to laptops, screens/docking stations need to be provided to ensure that employees don’t suffer RSI or visual problems through working with the small keyboard/screen
  • Laptops need to be carried which can be a disadvantage to those who walk or cycle to work
  • No phone number at work.
  • No permanent storage

This isn’t the whole story by any means. Some companies issue their employees with a smartphone (for work calls and internet access) and a tablet. They have lots of hotdesks that are spacious and pleasant. This allows their employees to work wherever, and whenever. I think they end up getting much more out of their employees who tend to be checking their email, on the phone, etc etc even when on holiday.

I think it must really depend on the sort of work that you do.

About Gill

Having worked as a Research Fellow with the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University, I have now semi-retired but retained my association with the OU as an Honorary Associate.
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8 Responses to Hot desking versus Fixed

  1. g.allanach says:

    I agree with most of your comments. However, working in a service organisation , other cons of hotdesking are:-
    *Secure, accessible storage where confidentiality and data protection are issues of primary concern,
    *If you are allowed travel subsistence, from what start point do you claim your travel?
    *How do people access you in an emergency? e.g. staff in our organisation will be on a duty rota and need to respond quickly.

  2. Gill says:

    Thanks g. Good points. I suspect that something that is a con in one environment is less relevant in another environment.

    *Could the issue of secure accessible storage be addressed by storing all user data on networked drives accessible with a username/password combination? I have a fixed computer at work, but I still store my data on a networked drive so that I can access it from other machines, also so that it gets backed up :).
    * Travel expenses are a matter of company policy. I would imagine the easiest would be to set it to start from the office, but it could be adaptable according to the type of contract (homeworking, partial homeworking etc).
    *Emergency access is more tricky. In my last company, duty employees had a mobile phone that would get passed to whoever was on duty at the time. This was only used out-of-hours, but I imagine the technique could be adapted to suit hotdesking. At the OU in our new building, I asked about this and I think that they’re planning some sort of phone system where you can set whatever phone you’re at to your number. If you’re really mobile, though, I think a moble phone is probably the best answer.

  3. Superb Article!

    We are finding more and more visitors come to our site from words such as “Hotdesking”. Can I just add that you make the point about having a fixed phone number when not Hot desking. However, some phone systems do allow you to “log” into a phone wherever you are sat and retain the same number.

  4. Gill says:

    Thanks – yes, now that we’re installed in the new building, this can be implemented. However what seems to happen is that people move into a particular seat in the hotdesking area and remain there. We have visiting academics who stay for weeks or months and permanent staff who have elected to hot-desk, but who always use the same desk. Maybe people need some sense of personal space ownership, even in a hotdesking area.

  5. Some companies issue their employees with a smart phone (for work calls and internet access) and a tablet. They have lots of hot desks that are spacious and pleasant.Can I just add that you make the point about having a fixed phone number when not Hot disking.


  6. Thank you for such an informative piece. Echoing previous comments, there are additional pro’s & con’s. You can see our thoughts and services at the link below. Enjoy!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Hot-desking with log-in telephones gives the advantage of a fixed phone number, but:
    When the desks are spread arround a large office you cannot see who else in your team is in so have no idea if there is enough phone cover at lunch time
    The post goes missing as no-one knows where you are
    You have to wander around asking if anyone has seen X today if you need to find them
    You waste around 30 mins a day finding a desk, adjusting the chair and unpacking your secure locker with the stationary etc you need for the day
    Paper-files – which are still used even in the “paper-less office” can never be placed conveniently for your team because your spread around randomly on the floor depending on where there are free desks
    It more difficult to know where your nearest fire exit is or where the nearest first-aider/first aid point is
    Team leaders find it harder to see who is in and who is working making skiving much easier if you’r ethat way inclined!
    Lack of personal space, clear desk policy and strict limits on the amount of personal stuff you can store leads to a de-humanised working environment and a feeling like you don’t belong and are not valued as an individual
    On the positive side its nice for more senior managers who tend to move around different locations and previously had to have lap-tops…..

  8. Andrew Fraser says:

    I get the impression that the only people really enthusiastic about hot-desking are those who are making money out of it. Presumably because they don’t have to face the consequences.

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